The judiciary and the Ministry of Justice have announced plans to remove barriers that prevent judges with appropriate authorisation from hearing different types of cases in a bid to bring the courts and tribunals together.
Announcing the move, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, and the Senior President of Tribunals said they wish to unify the courts and tribunals to make better use of resources and to "demonstrate that judges, whether they sit in courts or tribunals, are part of a single judicial family".
The plans, which are part of the 'One Judiciary' scheme, will see the three leaders promote 'cross-deployment' by working towards the creation of a unified leadership structure which will bring the tribunals together with the courts under the leadership of the Lord Chief Justice.
Under the reforms, the Senior President of Tribunals would continue – through delegated powers – to provide leadership for the tribunals, with a role which has the standing of a Head of Division. In addition, Chamber and Tribunal Presidents will continue to lead their respective jurisdictions. The change to the role of the Senior President will require statutory change.
As many tribunals have jurisdiction throughout the United Kingdom, the reform will "require careful consideration" with regard to Scotland and Northern Ireland, the announcement added.
It said: "The reserved tribunals judiciary will remain an important and valued part of the unified tribunals until the point of full devolution. Until then the role of Senior President of Tribunals will retain the statutory role as it is.”
Speaking more broadly about the scheme's aims, the announcement said the promotion of 'cross-deployment' will support judges' career development, enabling them to broaden their skills in different areas of law.
"It will also improve our ability to deploy judges with the right expertise more flexibly to meet fluctuating caseloads and support the exchange of experience between jurisdictions. This supports our shared responsibility to provide timely access to justice and continuously to improve the efficiency of the administration of justice,” the announcement notes.
In addition, the scheme will promote an "inclusive and collegiate" culture throughout the courts and tribunals, while respecting and valuing the distinct identities of different jurisdictions and the expertise needed in each area of the law.
"In this way, One Judiciary will play an important role in promoting diversity and inclusion throughout the judiciary, ensuring that we draw on the widest possible pools of talent for judicial recruitment and promoting a working environment in which all judges have opportunities to progress, irrespective of personal or professional background."